Warning: Premium Content Ahead

For as long as I can remember, everyone in media has described their content as “premium.” Since there is little agreement on exactly what constitutes premium, it has lost all meaning — with the possible exception of “probably will cost you more.”

I suspect that when media reps pitch their content as premium, buyers just roll their eyes and cough “bullshit” into their fists.  

Not to suggest that some content isn’t higher quality than other content, as should be evident by what the networks have subjected us to during the pandemic.  Small wonder that streaming numbers continue to climb as a percentage of time spent in front of the TV.

For years, “prime time” was not only a daypart, but built on the expectation that this was also “premium” content. Still think that’s true?  With DVRs now built into nearly every cable system, the networks can run “Chicago P.D.” at 4 in the morning, and I will still “watch it.”  



So in my house, prime time is utterly meaningless — it’s usually when we stream their “premium” content. (Although I can say with conviction that many streaming offerings are in no way “premium,” but since I have to pay for them, should probably be considered such.)

In every other facet of life, premium is a warning label. When I buy a new car, one of the early questions I ask is if the gas has to be “premium” -- wincing when the answer is “certainly.” 

I have not found that premium grocery products are in fact any better-tasting than the store brands that cost substantially less. And we all know that in the liquor store premium simply means higher-costing. There is even a premium pet store in Charleston, South Carolina, where I now live. Does that mean their cats and dogs come house-broken and will never shred the sofa or curtains?

There was a time when “premium” meant higher quality, thus higher priced, but now, in an effort to sell more, even mediocre programming (and its surrounding inventory) is thusly labeled.  Routine services endemic to the media buying and selling process are also now positioned as premium, as if to suggest they are somehow superior to the same services offered by the competition. Too often that’s simply not the case. 

Online listicles have utterly canceled out the notion that Top, Best, and Most will treat you to something special. The only thing special is how many low-brow ads can be loaded into an open window while you search for the next page. If you can get beyond the first three, you are either persistent or incredibly high at the moment.  

Whatever happened to terms like remnant? Long tail? Run of site? And overnight? Those used to be the bargain bins of media, signaling greater risk, but lower cost. Are they now “leftover premium”?

With this note, I am asking MediaPost Editor in Chief Joe Mandese to change my descriptor to Premium Featured Contributor. 

I am tired of being “subprime George.”

1 comment about "Warning: Premium Content Ahead".
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  1. Mark Laurence from Greater Media, August 14, 2020 at 11:52 a.m.

    There's nothing more destructive to newspaper brands than the "premium editions" they publish which are nothing more than repackaged internet and syndicate content, each one lopping as much as $9 off their readers' subscription terms. Some offer a convoluted opt-out process, but others force readers to accept this high-priced trash in order to continue their subscription.  I know many lifelong newspaper readers who have cancelled their subscriptions over this policy.

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